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TimeLine of Music and Media Technology

compilation and copyright by The Media Management Group

last updated July 26, 2015

The history of music and media technology has responded to the desire for better methods of reproduction and transmission of sound and video, while at the same time such new technologies have stimulated the marketplace for music and media products; Changes in technologies and marketplaces have had side-effects that affected how to compensate the owners of intellectual properties and their publishers while at the same time promoting the public's right to choose via free trade and free exchange of culture. This history has included struggles over patent rights, copyright protection, technology standards, trade unions and industry monopolies. This history is still evolving as changes continue in music styles, content diversity, storage media, transmission methods and digital encryption laws.

But one trend over the last 175 years is unmistakable: more people now have more access to more types of music and media using technologies that provide more choices and more faithful sound and video quality than ever before in the history of the world. And this trend of improvements in quality, access and diversty is expected to continue.

1840 - 1899

During the 19th Century the "parlor piano" was a primary medium of entertainment. The technologies of player piano rolls and sheet music sold by music publishers brought amateur pianists, guitarists and vocalists in-home entertainment. Church music was also a magnet for the faithful masses who enjoyed a weekly meeting singing hymns to the accompaniment of a harmonium, piano or organ. Professional live theater, musical theater, orchestra concerts, band concerts, touring musical recitals and minstrel shows (and its later cousin Vaudeville) were the mass mediums of secular entertainment. During the period between 1877 and 1899 the basic technology was developed for recording and playing back sound. At first, it was more a business tool (for taking dictation) and a public curiousity, rather than a mass distribution medium, since no commercial duplication system had yet been invented. The original Edison system of cylinder recording was the first. But Berliner's flat disk system held promise for mass distribution. Both systems suffered from non-standard speeds and acoustic recording and playback. The heavy styluses (phonograph and gramophone needles) used for playback destroyed recordings after a limited number of plays. Fidelity and surface noise were abominable, but it was a start of the "talking machine" technology which was originally thought to be useful for business in the way dictation machines eventually were. The typewriter is invented and the most long-lasting brands feature the QWERTY keyboard layout. This layout slows down the typist and minimizes "sticking" -- where the typebars would collide and stick together. (The same QWERTY layout is used years later on computer keyboards because by now it is universally used for typing Latin character sets.)

  • 1844 - May 24th - In the United States, Samuel Morse begins his first telegraph line.
                The wires run 39 miles from Baltimore, MD to Washington, D.C.
                The first message sent by Morse is: "What hath God wrought?"
  • 1851 - The New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company is founded
                in Rochester, New York, which will become Western Union -- this major
                message service also offered delivery of Telegrams.
  • 1856 - The New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company acquires several
                competing companies and changes its name to Western Union; its service of delivering
                Telegrams will continue until January 27, 2006 -- 150 years after the name change.
  • 1861 - Western Union completes the first transcontinental telegraph line -- providing fast,
                coast-to-coast communications during the U.S. Civil War.
  • 1866 - Christopher Latham Sholes of Danville, PA and his colleagues, Carlos Glidden and
               Samuel Soulé developed the first practical typewriter (and the QWERTY keyword.)
  • 1873 - The Remington Arms company signs a deal to market Sholes' Typewriter under their
               name; later they merge with the Rand company to form Remington-Rand.
  • 1876 - Alexander Graham Bell issued a patent for the Telephone on March 7th. By the early
               1800's many experimental uses were attempted for this invention including what was
               later called "Audio Theatre" -- plays and readings performed over the telephone.
  • 1877 - Edison invents the cylinder "phonograph" used to record and playback sound. Originally
               thought to be useful as a business machine for dictation (like the dictaphone which would
               come later.) Other uses: recordings of plays pre-dating Radio Drama nearly 50 years.
  • 1877 - Emile Berliner invents the first microphone and sells the rights to Bell Telephone
  • 1887 - Emile Berliner invents the flat record player ("gramophone") using acoustic horn
                and licenses technology to record companies who make "70-rpm" disks
  • 1880 - Edison issued a patent for the electric incandescent light bulb; wires part of New
               York with DC current to power street lights and lights in wealthy homes.
  • 1889 - Danish inventor Valdemar Poulson invents magnetic wire sound recording
  • 1889 - Louis Glass invents the modern jukebox (coin-operated phonograph) and installs
               it at the "Palais Royal" saloon in San Francisco where it is an immediate hit.
  • 1891 - The International copyright agreement is adopted between major countries
  • 1892 - Popular music becomes a serious business; Music Publishers begin renting
                office space on 28th street in New York City, near vaudeville theatres in an
                area that would become known worldwide as "Tin Pan Alley."
  • 1892 - The first "million-seller" song hit (sold via sheet music) was "After The Ball"
                by Charles K. Harris, who was both its composer and publisher.
  • 1895 - The Lumiere Brothers use (piano) music with a motion picture program (of
                short subjects) for the first time at a Dec. 28th -screening at the Grand Café in Paris
  • 1896 - An orchestra is used with (silent) motion pictures for the first time in April in London
  • 1897 - Shellac gramophone disks developed by Emile Berliner - speeds will vary on discs
               issued by companies in different countries (80 rpm was used on some British recordings)
  • 1897 - British scientist Joseph John Thompson discovers the electron particle within cathode rays.
  • 1897 - Guglielmo Marconi is granted his first British patent for wireless telegraphy.

1900 - 1924

In the first 25 years of the 20th century, mass duplication made the record industry possible. The first "big three" labels were Edison, RCA Victor, and Columbia, because they held the most patents on the technologies. During this period, a shakeout revealed disks to be the winner over cylinders. The Westrex system of electrical recording (and other systems which followed) created a notable advance over previous acoustical horn recordings. As radio broadcasting began, the future for record players may have looked somewhat grim. But as in the introduction of all new technologies, a place was found for both the old and the new technologies in the culture.

  • 1902 - April 16 - "The Electric Theater" in Los Angeles is opened by Thomas L. Tally: the
  •            first Nickelodeon, a multimedia movie palace, that spawned imitators nationwide;
  • 1900 - Eldredge Johnson perfects first system of mass duplication of pre-recorded flat disks.
  • 1906 - RCA Victor's "Victrola" model record player is introduced. It has a variable turntable
               speed control to accomodate the wide range of phonograph records produced at that
               time; Victor's speeds ranged from 71 - 76 rpm. Columbia was producing discs as 80rpm.
               Some British disks even rotated between 66rpm - 90rpm; Although U.S. phonograph
               manufacturers agreed in 1928 to standardize on the rate of 78.26 rpm, it still took
               decades for more standard speeds to be used worldwide.
  • 1906 - British scientist John Ambrose Fleming develops the first vacuum tube called a "Valve."
  • 1907 - Lee de Forest is granted a patent on January 15 for the first triode (three-element)
               vacuum tube which he calls the "Audion". It was similar to Flemings diode (two-element)
               vacuum tube called a "Valve". But de Forest's third element (called a "grid") allowed
               the Audion tube to amplify signals -- which made radio with voice and music practical.
  • 1908 - The first double-sided phonograph records are introduced by Columbia. Soon its
               competitors follow suit; Prior to this time, all records had sound only on one side;
               the back side was a blank (un-grooved) side.
  • 1909 - Charles "Doc" Herrold and his assistant Ray Newby begin experimental "wireless"
               voice and music broadcasts from San Jose, California using experimental radio station
               call letters "FN" and "SJN". They transmit with a series of arcing street lamps under liquid
  • 1910 - Mary Pickford becomes the first American "Motion Picture Star" via her silent films.
  • 1912 - Charles "Doc" Herrold begins the first regular public radio broadcasting of voice and
               music from his "wireless telegraph college" in San Jose, California; He calls it "The
               Herrold Station" and transmits to audiences from San Jose to San Francisco.       
  • 1912 - Disk recordings overtake cylinders in the popular market. Columbia drops cylinders.
  • 1913 - Edison Co. finally introduces a disk player, now that the cylinder market is gone
  • 1913 - Cecil B. DeMille and Jesse Lasky produce the first "feature-length" film called
              "The Squaw Man"
  • 1914 - First transcontinental telephone call from New York to San Francisco on July 29th.
  • 1914 - Western Union introduces the first consumer charge card.
  • 1914 - ASCAP formed to collect public performance royalties for Composers, Authors and
               Publishers; Composer Victor Herbert is its first president.
  • 1916 - AT&T engineer C. G. Hensley got the idea for the loudspeaker when he thought about
               what would happen if he made a telephone receiver really big.
  • 1917 - The Orig. Dixieland Jass <sic> Band (ODJB) makes the first "Jazz" recording.
  • 1920 - Commercial AM Radio broadcasting begins on KDKA, Philadelphia.
  • 1921 - The first automatic "record changer" turntable is patented for a stack of 78's.
  • 1923 - Western Union introduces teletypewriters, joining branches and individual companies.
  • 1923 - Vladimir Zworykin applies for a patent on the cathode-ray tube as a film or slide scanner.
  • 1924 - Electrical records replace acoustic discs, via a process developed by Western Electric.
  • 1924 - Dutch-born Iwan Surrerier (a Pasadena, CA resident) re-designs his rear-projection
               device for home viewing movies (invented in 1917 -- called a "Moviola") into a
               machine to make film editing easier, and sold his first one to Douglas Fairbanks.

1925 - 1949

Further advances in recording technology continued to improve the quality of analog sound reproduction. Radio was now the prime entertainment medium in the home, but it had not killed the record industry. Instead, it was becoming a partner as radios containing record players were selling more of both. And musicians benefited temporarily by getting jobs in both recording and broadcasting fields.When advances in recording technology allowed broadcasters to began to combine the two (frequently playing records over the radio) eliminated many jobs for radio musicians and the musicians union fought a bitter losing battle. Toward the end of the period, the appearance of the long-playing and extended-play microgroove records signalled a format struggle that was to kill off the 78rpm record within a few years. (Admittedly this history is compiled from a U. S. perspective. Some parallel advances -- especially in the timeline of radio and TV broadcasting -- were introduced in Europe at different times, which are not included here.)

  • 1925 - Vitaphone introduces a sound system to synchronize music and sound effects with a
               motion picture; It uses a 16-inch disc turntable that is connected by gears to the
               projector mechanism. Operators have to continuously adjust the synchronization of
               the grooves to the picture, which was not perfect. Later the speed and size of these
               discs (16-inches running at approximately 33rpm) is utilized by some radio stations
               stations and networks for "transcribing" radio programs for later re-broadcast at a
               different time (or time zone.)
  • 1926 - Bell Laboratories develops a 33 1/3 rpm disk system to synchronize a music track for
               the Warner Brothers film "Don Juan" containing music composed by William Axt. This
               system is similar to the Vitaphone system introduced months earlier. Both competing
               systems -- the "Vitaphone system" and the "Bell/Warner Bros. system", as well as the
               use of transcription discs by radio stations/networks, inspire the introduction of
               33rpm disks later -- a "long-playing" record intended for home use but eventually
               with smaller "micro" grooves in the disc and a smaller size (10-inches.)
  • 1926 - NBC -- the "National Broadcasting Company" begins as the first radio network.
               The inauguration of the NBC Radio network was celebrated on November 15th with a
               4 1/2 hour gala broadcast from the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, NY;
               it was estimated half of the nation's 5 million radio sets were tuned in for the broadcast;
               Quickly two networks ("chains" of stations) were distinguished -- one was called the
               "NBC Red Network" and the other the "NBC Blue Network" -- which was sold in 1945
               to form the ABC Radio Network as the result of an anti-trust settlement. At that point
               only the "Red network" remained, but in view of increasing post-war anti-communism
               NBC dropped the "Red Network" from its name.
  • 1926 - Scotsman John Logie Baird invents mechanical television which he calls a "Televisor",
               a postcard-sized black and pink (not black and white) image with 30 scan lines running
              at a flickering 12 1/2 frames per second.
  • 1927 - "Movie-Tone News" talking theatrical newsreels debut May 25th in New York City.
  • 1927 - The NBC Pacific Coast "Orange network" debuts April 5, 1927 with its flagship station
                KGO in San Francisco.
  • 1927 - CBS - the "Columbia Broadcasting System" begins radio broadcasting on Sept. 18,
               formed by the demise of the Columbia Phonograph Broadcasting System, a chain of
               some 16 stations which originated out of WOR -- Newark, New Jersey; The stock
               was sold to the fledgling United Independent Broadcasters, Inc.; a year later WABC in
               New York replaced WOR as the headquarters of the network; WABC was finally re-
               named WCBS to avoid confusion; CBS was known as "the Purple network" (as
               opposed to NBC's "Red" and "Blue" networks) because of the color coding on
               AT&T diagrams.
  • 1927 - On Sept. 7th -- Philo Farnsworth transmits the first "electric television" picture (about
                the size of a postage stamp, an inch and a half square) in his San Francisco Laboratory.
  • 1928 - January 4th - is the date of the first broadcast of the expanded NBC -- all the way
                to the West Coast, for a total of 47 stations in the chain (now called a "Network")
  • 1928 - In the United States, a young comedian named Milton Berle is the first person to be
                seen on television, on an experimental broadcast; But it would be another 20 years
                before his network TV show for Texaco would result in him becoming known
                throughout the country as "Mr. Television."
  • 1928 - RCA convinces phonograph labels including its own Victor label as well as Columbia
               and other manufacturers to standardize on 78.26 rpm as the speed of all phonograph
               records. Previous disk recording speeds might vary anywhere up to 80rpm in the U.S.
               and even as high as 90rpm in England.
  • 1928 - Billboard magazine publishes its first music chart of performed songs.
  • 1928 - Scotsman John Logie Baird demonstrates his system of mechanical television,
                transmitting its signal from England to the United States over the Atlantic ocean.
  • 1929 - The Edison Co. ceases the manufacturing of sound recordings.
  • 1929 - The West Coast "Don Lee" chain of radio stations joins the CBS radio network; it
                was to later switch to Mutual in 1936.
  • 1929 - Philo Farnsworth transmits the first TV picture of a living person - his wife - on
                Oct. 19, in his San Francisco laboratory; the picture is only about 3 1/2 inches square.
  • 1930 - To improve TV pictures, German scientist Fritz Schroeter applies for a patent on interlaced scanning.
  • 1932 - RCA laboratories work on a 33 1/3 rpm record system, but the system fails because the
               material does not stand up to repeated plays. Sixteen more years will pass before a system
               of "long-playing" records is developed that is good enough for widespread consumer use,
               delayed in part by World War II materials shortages.
  • 1932 - An experimental "binaural" phonograph system is created by Bell laboratories.
               The two channels of sound were on separate grooves of a 78rpm vinyl record, requiring
               a special stylus mechanism to play both channels simultaneously; The system, which
               also required dual-channel amplifiers and additional speakers, was expensive and was
               not marketed commercially. The first recording produced using this system was Scriabin's
               Prometheus ("Poem of Fire"), conducted by Leopold Stokowski.
  • 1932 - Vladimir Zworykin applies for a patent on a TV camera vacuum tube he calls the "Iconoscope."
  • 1932 - The Duke Ellington recording of "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing"
                starts the "swing music" dance craze.
  • 1933 - January 30 - The first episode of "The Lone Ranger" radio series debuts on radio station
               WXYZ in Detroit. Director Jim Jewell makes the decision NOT to use the studio Organ for
               music, but to score the new series with recorded classical music as he has with several
               earlier radio series he had directed; He makes the fateful choice of the Finale section
               of the "William Tell" Overture from the Italian opera by Rossini as his Opening/Closing
               theme music for this new "horse opera" -- a choice that will go down in radio/TV history.
  • 1933 - Western Union introduces the first "singing telegram" service.
  • 1933 - Richard M. Hollingshead opened the first Drive-In Movie Theater in Camden, NJ on
               June 6...his company was called "Park-In Theaters, Inc." But the part which the public
               remembered was that you "Drive-In", and so that name stuck.
  • 1933 - Harry Lubke, a former associate of Philo Farnsworth, builds an electronic television transmitter
               for the Don Lee System in Hollywood -- which transmits one hour per day, six days per week,
               using 300 scan lines at 20 frames per second, and claims to be the first TV station in the U.S.
  • 1934 - The Mutual Broadcasting System (MBS) begins operation on September 15, formed by
                eight stations that carried "The Lone Ranger" produced at WXYZ Detroit, plus stations
                WOR New York and WLW Cincinnati. Mutual was a network "owned and operated"
                by its affiliated stations, and was later purchased by WOR in New York. Then it
                was absorbed into Westwood One - CNN in 1999.
  • 1935 - The first "3-strip Technicolor" feature-length motion picture -- "Becky Sharp" is made
                by simultaneously exposing three black & white camera negatives through colored filters
                in the camera, and then printing the results onto color positive stock for the projector;
                The film is co-produced by Rouben Mamoulian with Kenneth MacGowan's "Pioneer
                Pictures Corporation", and is distributed by RKO Radio Pictures.
  • 1935 - AEG/Telefunken exhibits the first magnetic tape recorder in Germany.
  • 1936 - Billboard magazine publishes its first chart of top-selling records.
  • 1936 - The West Coast "Don Lee" chain of radio stations joins the Mutual Network on
                December 29 giving Mutual a coast-to-coast reach.
  • 1937 - Christmas Night on the NBC Radio Network - The NBC Symphony Orchestra premiere
                broadcast begins a 17-year run under the direction of Arturo Toscanini.
  • 1938 - The CBS radio network debuts the "CBS World News Round-Up" on March 13th
                anchored by broadcast journalist Robert Trout.
  • 1939 - National radio hit advertising jingle "Pepsi-Cola Hits The Spot" is written by
                Eric Siday and Ginger Johnson, adapted from the tune of an 18th-century
                English hunting song titled "John Peel". Johnson-Siday would write early
                advertising jingles, and then Siday would form the first electronic jingle
                company "Identitones" using early analog synthesizers in the 1960s.
  • 1939 - Electronic television demonstrated at the Chicago Worlds Fair by RCA / NBC; the
               number of horizontal scan lines of early electronic TV systems varied from 500 to
               750 with DuMont systems having the highest resolution around 750.
  • 1940 - Regular FM Radio broadcasting begins in New York City.
  • 1941 - The National Television Standards Committee adopts the "NTSC standard" of
                525 interlaced horizontal scan lines for all U.S. commercial television broadcasts
                and just under 30 frames per second consisting of two interlaced fields.
  • 1941 - ASCAP feuds with radio networks, which spawns the birth of a rival U.S. Performance
                Royalty collection/distribution organization -- Broadcast Music, Incorporated -- BMI
  • 1942 - James Petrillo's American Federation of Musicians (AF of M) Union begins a
              "recording ban" from Aug., 1942 - Nov., 1944 to force record companies to pay royalties,
               which starts the decline of the big-band era in favor of vocal groups and "crooner" vocalists
  • 1945 - The American Broadcasting Network officially begins on June 14 -- when it takes over
               the NBC Radio "Blue" Network. Announcements for awhile identified it as the "Blue
               Network of the American Broadcasting Company" or the "American Blue Network."
  • 1946 - Captured German magnetic tape recorders brought to the United States which are copied
                for commercial use by A. M. Polikoff who founds AMPEX (he added "EX" for excellence.)
  • 1947 - The FCC approves regularly-scheduled commercial television broadcasting, following
               the wartime "interruption", on seven East Coast television stations.
  • 1947 - Jan 22 - The FCC approves the first commercial television station West of the Mississipi at a
               subsidiary of Paramount Pictures - call letters are changed to KTLA - over channel 5
               (formerly it was experimental TV station W6XYZ on channel 4, and later on channel 5.)
  • 1947 - Dec 16 - Bell Laboratories assembles the world's first transistor (a "point contact" type
               so-called because two pointed metal contacts pressed the surface of a semiconductor.)
  • 1948 - The first cable TV systems appear (called Community Antenna TeleVision systems,
                or CATV) for carrying television signals by wire into areas that are geographically remote.
  • 1948 - The commercial 33 1/3 LP (Long Playing) microgroove (1-mil) disc is introduced by Dr.
                Peter Goldmark of Columbia Records; the first LP disk is released; it is 10" Columbia
               record #4001 performed by classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin.
  • 1948 - The Audio Engineering Society (The AES) is formed.
  • 1949 - RCA Victor responds to the LP by developing large-hole 45 rpm phonograph records;
               Although the effort failed to kill LPs, RCA's 45s eventually had the unintended
               consequence of replacing 78s as the preferred media format for singles.
  • 1949 - A local Los Angeles filmed TV sitcom which will air in 1950 on the full NBC network
               called "Hank McCune Hall", about the life of a television variety show host, introduces
               the technique of "the laugh track" -- "canned laughter" -- edited in from other comedy
               shows, which unfortunately continues to plague sitcoms to this day...

1950 - 1974

This 25-year period saw radical change in sound and broadcast technology, television, and magnetic tape -- revolutionizing these fields more than anyone might have dared dream during the previous 75 years. Many advances in digital electronics were due to the impetus of the "space race" -- which started with the Russian launch of Sputnik and the response by President John F. Kennedy to challenge NASA scientists to land a man on the moon within ten years. It was this cold war "race" which indirectly fostered the development of solid-state electronics to fit within space capsules, particularly the development of the integrated circuit (the IC) to hold thousands of transistors on a single "chip." Ultimately this led to Large-Scale Integrated circuits (LSI's.) LSI's made possible micro-processors and memory "chips." This U. S. government program made possible commercial "spin-offs" including digital calculators and micro-computers -- which are now called "Personal Computers (PC's) and Personal Digital Assistants (PDA's) and the many "embedded systems" which are found in everything from microwave ovens to automobiles. Another U. S. government program created by the Defense Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA) to connect university research labs was called "The DARPANET." This led to another useful spinoff which we now call "The Internet."

  • 1950 - RCA finally gave in to market pressures and began producing 33 1/3 microgroove (1-mil)
                LPs to compete with Columbia and others.
  • 1950 - Zenith introduces the "Lazy Boy" -- the first television remote control (it had a cable.)
  • 1950 - The NBC-TV series "Hank McCune Hall" used laugh tracks from other shows on
                its soundtrack since it was filmed without a studio audience, and the era of "canned
                 laughter" began; later that year a CBS-TV engineer named Charlie Douglas made a
                device that could produce a "laugh track" using multiple tape loops, which could be
                played like a "laugh organ", and began a company to supply this service to producers.
  • 1951 - CBS television broadcast the first color TV program to five cities on June 25th; the CBS
                color system was not compatible with black & white signals as was the RCA system
                developed for NBC, which eventually was approved for use throughout the U.S. in 1953.
  • 1951 - The first ID jingle company to "sing-over" pre-recorded backgrounds - PAMS, Inc. is
                formed in Dallas, Texas by former radio studio musician Bill Meeks on August 20, 1951.
  • 1951 - The "CBS Eye" network logo debuts on September 10, 1951, designed by network art
                director William Golden. An animated version debuted on the air on October 17th.
  • 1951 - The first episode of "I Love Lucy" aired on Monday, October 15th on the CBS
               Television Network, filmed with three cameras simultaneously in front of a
               "live" audience on the General Service Studio soundstage.
  • 1952 - Coast-to-coast network TV is a reality via telephone company coaxial cables.
  • 1952 - The Recording Industry Association of America (the RIAA) is formed in order
               to facilitate technical standardization of phonograph recording & reproduction;
               It invited engineers from U.S. record companies to discuss proposed standards
               including a pre-emphasis equalization curve that would optimize the performance
               of playback systems in attenuating unwanted surface noise and rumble, etc.
  • 1953 - RCA proposes to the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) that it
               adopt RCA's "New Orthophonic" recording characteristic as its standard to define
               equalization crossover points and rolloff characteristics for records. But the
               RIAA doesn't officially endorse this standard for 3 more years (1956), and it
               would take four more years (until 1957) for the last U.S. manufacturer to change
               their "equalization" curves to the RIAA standard. Up until that point records
               were made with many different equalization curves -- the most well-known being
               AES, NAB, and FFRR. It took even longer for overseas record companies to change,
               some of whom used additional equalization curves -- such as BBC, EMI, and CCIR
               as late as the 1970's on their phonograph recordings.
  • 1953 - The first pre-recorded reel-to-reel tape (at 7 1/2 ips) is offered for sale.
  • 1953 - The First public RCA "compatible-color" TV broadcast was an episode of NBC's
                "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" on August 30th; The first regularly scheduled prime-time
                series in RCA compatible color was on Nov. 22nd (NBC's "Colgate Comedy Hour".)
  • 1954 - The First "transistor radio" went on sale in the U.S. named The Regency TR-1
                 (it had 4 transistors and cost $49.99.)
  • 1954 - Swanson employee Gerry Thomas invents the frozen "T. V. Dinner" to get rid of extra
                turkey. He received a $1000 bonus from the company and a pay increase to $300 per month.
                At first the company received letters from irate husbands who wanted their wives to continue
                "cooking from scratch" like their mothers. But soon the idea was widely accepted, and the
                segmented aluminum dinner compartments (inspired by airline food containers) fit nicely
                on "T. V. Trays" -- another '50's innovation.
  • 1954 - On March 25, the first color television sets rolled out of the RCA Victor factory
               in Bloomington, Indiana; (The model CT-100 had a 12-inch screen, and a suggested
               retail price of $1000. A total of 5,000 model CT-100 sets were made.)
  • 1955 - Larger 12" LP's overtake 10" LP's as the preferred size for long-playing records.
  • 1955 - NBC debuts a weekend radio network format called MONITOR on Sunday, June 12th,
                a creation of Pat Weaver, who also created NBC's Today and Tonight Shows.
  • 1956 - Ampex Co. of Redwood City, CA demonstrates the first videotape system in February
  • 1956 - The "NBC Peacock" logo (symbol of compatible "Living Color") debuts in July,
                designed by Fred Knapp and the NBC graphics department under John J. Graham.
  • 1957 - Audio Fidelity claims it created the world's first Stereophonic disks in November, 1957.
  • 1957 - Compatible Stereo disks and record players are offered for sale (33 1/3 and 45rpm.)
  • 1960 - Sony introduces the first "solid-state" TV set, using transistors instead of vacuum tubes.
  • 1961 - FM Stereo radio broadcasting begins and FM slowly starts to gain respect.
  • 1962 - Multitrack analog tape recording starts being used in recording studios.
  • 1963 - Compact tape cassettes and players are developed by Phillips originally for dictation.
               Despite a sneak preview at a Berlin fair on August 30, its "official" introduction
               to the world was at Phillips headquarters in Amsterdam on September 13.
               Who would have thought its use as a portable music medium would still be alive
               and well in some countries 50 years later.
  • 1963 - Ivan Sutherland does his M.I.T. Doctoral Thesis on Interactive Computer Graphics
               creating a "Sketchpad" program using an interactive light pen instead of a mouse;
               which leads to the first practical uses of interactive graphics on computers.
  • 1963 - Douglas C. Engelbart demonstrates the first computer mouse (made of wood.)
  • 1964 - The 8-track stereo tape cartridge is developed for automobile use by Lear
  • 1964 - A T & T introduces the PicturePhone at the Worlds' Fair, but it doesn't catch on
  • 1966 - The "Dolby-A" professional noise reduction system is used in some recording studios
  • 1968 - The "Dolby-B" noise reduction system is introduced for consumer reel-to-reel and
                cassette tape recorders.
  • 1969 - The FCC requires cable TV systems with more than 3500 subscribers to include
                locally-originated programming
  • 1969 - At AT&T Bell Labs, Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie begin developing the UNIX
              "portable" operating system, and the "B" (1969) and "C" (1972) computer languages
  • 1969 - The first Microprocessor (computer on a chip) is introduced by Intel -- the 4004
  • 1969 - The Internet begins as a link between four university labs, called ARPANET
  • 1971 - The first ARPANET (later Internet) EMail program called "SNDMSG" -- short for
                "Send Message" -- was created by Ray Tomlinson working at BBN Technologies
                (Called BBN because it was founded by Bolt, Beranek and Newman.)
  • 1971 - The first consumer effort in surround sound -- 4-channel "Quadraphonic" (nicknamed
                "Quad") LP records were released on various record labels: Project 3 and Ovation
                called it "E-V Stereo-4", while Vanguard and Reprise called it "Dynaquad".
                Unfortunately, the lack of standardization among manufacturers of various LP's,
                8-track, cassettes and reel-to-reel tape formats caused consumer confusion and
                doomed the effort.
  • 1971 - Gloria Gaynor records "Never Can Say Goodbye" -- the first disco record on US radio
  • 1972 - Atari of Santa Clara, CA develops "Pong" -- the first electronic computer arcade game.
  • 1972 - New Mexico calculator company MIPS introduces the first "micro-computer", the Altair,
                which is sold as a kit you put together. (Later MIPS founder returns to his original
                profession as a local physician.)
  • 1972 - Bill Gates drops out of Harvard, moves to New Mexico to develop software for the
               new MIPS Altair "micro-computer" with Paul Allen under the name "MicroSoft."
  • 1973 - Martin Cooper of Motorola conceived the first cellular phone system, and led the
               10-year process of bringing it to market.
  • 1974 - The first all solid-state video cameras are introduced using Bell Labs "CCD"
               (charge-coupled device) instead of an Image Orthicon or Plumbicon camera tube

1975 - 1999

The last 25 years of the 20th Century saw the emergence of the "digital revolution" in which digital technology affected most of our lives directly or indirectly. This revolution changed the way all mediums of sound and video are recorded and played back. It has all but wiped out the sales of analog record and tape formats of the past. Ahead are several questions: How will the controversy over internet file swapping be resolved? What new challenges and problems will digital copy protection schemes create? How soon will HDTV (High-Definition Television) make analog TV broadcasting obsolete?

  • 1975 - NBC's weekend radio format MONITOR is cancelled after nearly 20 years --
                It's final broadcast airs on Sunday, January 26th.
  • 1975 - A four-channel noise reduction system for optical sound tracks on 35mm film is
               introduced by Dolby labs (originally called "Dolby Stereo".)
  • 1976 - Garrett Brown invents the gyroscopic Steadicam, a motion picture camera stabilizer
                mount, worn by the cameraman himself, first used in the movie "Rocky."
  • 1979 - The Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight", is the first hip-hop record to reach Top 40 radio.
  • 1981 - The MTV Music TV Cable Network debuts on the air at Midnight, August 1st.
  • 1981 - The first IBM-brand "PC" (for "Personal Computer") is released on August 12th --
                "Personal Computer" becomes the popular name of what used to be called a "micro-
                computer" system; It uses the "DOS" -- Disk Operating System -- provided by
                enterprenour Bill Gates who bought the rights to it from a local company in Seattle
                for a pittance, and resold it under his company's name -- "Microsoft"
  • 1982 - The digital Compact Disc (CD) is introduced by a Japanese conglomerate.
  • 1982 - The first CD released (in Japan) is Billy Joel's "52nd Street" (October, 1982.)
  • 1983 - The first CD titles are released in the US in June (12 CBS, 15 Telarc, 30 Denon.)
  • 1983 - In November, U.S. computing student Fred Cohen created the very first computer
                virus -- as a research project.
  • 1984 - The (128K) Apple Macintosh personal computer debuts with a Graphical User Interface
                advertised as "the computer for the rest of us", expected sales of 50,000 the first month
                at $2495, the industry (and Apple) is surprised when 75,000 orders pour in...perhaps
               due in part to a novel TV ad aired during the Football Superbowl game.
  • 1984 - NBC broadcasts the first television programs with stereo sound.
  • 1985 - Adoption of the CD starts taking a huge bite out of LP sales, causing them to drop 25%.
  • 1986 - The Recording Industry Association of America (the RIAA) announces on June 19 that
                CDs have overtaken LP sales in the U.S.
  • 1988 - The CD overtakes LP sales worldwide; CD-ROMs are developed as a computer medium
               able to store around 750 MegaBytes per disc.
  • 1988 - CEDAR Audio Ltd. of Cambridge, England develops a Noise Reduction system to fix
              clicks, pops and crackle from old records re-mastered for release on CD's. CEDAR
               is an acronym for Computer Enhanced Digital Audio Restoration. Other companies in
               the U.S. soon followed. One of them -- Sonic Solutions -- began in San Rafael, California
               as a spin-off of a project called "Edit-Droid" from George Lucas' company Lucasfilm.
               Sonic Solutions sells a system of professional noise reduction options called "NoNoise."
  • 1990 - Phillips introduces a digital audio tape recorder (DAT) using a digital casette.
  • 1990 - Dec. 25 (Christmas Day) Tim Berners-Lee, a researcher working at the CERN
               atomic laboratory in Switzerland, finishes programming the first practical
               Web Browser, which comes to be known as "Nexus", incorporating both FTP (file
               transfer protocol) and his own HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol), simplifying
               interactions between client and server machines, making a more seamless display
               of text and graphics over the Internet; the browser was first released on Feb 26,
               1991 to a group of physicists, and it became such a popular phenomena, that Tim
               Berners-Lee (who could have received royalties) let the browser go into Public
               Domain in 1993 -- so as to further promote the growth of the World-Wide Web.
  • 1991 - The Moving Picture Experts Group MPEG-1 Audio Layer III (MP3) compressed audio
                file format becomes an international standard, and eventually the most popular format
                for distributing digital audio over the Internet.
  • 1991 - The "SoundScan" barcode tracking system of reporting music recording sales begins
                to bring accurate sales figures to record charts; Country music is now a bigger segment.
  • 1994 - Personal computers outsell TV sets for the first time in the United States.
  • 1994 - The Internet starts to "take off" as a major computing platform due to the World Wide
               Web being "discovered" for a myriad of commercial and social uses; junk EMail begins :-(
  • 1995 - The online auction community eBay starts out as "", programmed
               by General Magic engineer Pierre Omidyar who started it as a hobby project.
               It debuts on the Web in September 1995, and 10 years later in September, 2005
               eBay will boast 157 million registered users worldwide, 75 million in the U.S.
  • 1996 - The DVD (Digital Versatile Disc) increases capacity of digital storage of audio and video
                on a CD (Compact Disc) medium; can store on to 4.7 GigaBytes per side; double-sided
                disks are possible though rare...
  • 1997 - The world falls in love with everything Internet, and there is talk of a "New Economy"
               where the old rules don't apply. But by 2001, the speculative bubble bursts, leaving
                many computer engineers jobless; and fueling the trend toward hi-tech outsourcing.
  • 1998 - The Internet Web site "" debuts on January 26th, 1998; Founded
               by former Radio/TV composer/producer and Macromedia software engineer David Shields,
               who wanted to consolidate his research into classic television themes and old-time radio (OTR)
               themes, that he had been researching, collecting and publishing since 1960; Over the
               years biographies about the better composer-arrangers of Light (Easy Listening) music,
               and other resources are added; and the site becomes a primary source for the music industry.
  • 1998 - First regular transmissions of HDTV (High-Definition Television) begin in major cities
  • 1999 - Broadband Internet service providers begin to be offered to consumers faster Web page
               downloads and smoother and faster streaming media.
  • 1999 - Recordable CD-R digital audio disc technology becomes part of personal computer systems.
  • 1999 - Rival Audio DVD formats DVD-A and SACD (Super-Audio CD) introduced which offer
               superior sound than conventional CDs; DVD-A includes other media content as well.        
  • 1999 - The Mutual Broadcasting System is a victim of consolidation -- absorbed into Westwood
               One-CNN Radio on April 18, ending 65 years as an independent radio network.

Since 2000

The first few years of the 21st Century has seen the Internet become "a global computing platform" for communication, information exchange and entertainment (not to mention worlwide mischief.) The U.S. and some European countries become increasingly dependent upon Internet communication, data and economic transfers, as well as many new opportunities for global trade. But some worry this is creating unseen vulnerabilities to these economies as well as to personal financial and private information -- all of which will need to be addressed in the not-too-distant future. Here is what has happened so far, and is scheduled to happen....

  • 2000 - Internet music-swapping site "Napster" is created, and alarms the recording industry
                which mounts a massive campaign to shut it down despite First Amendment concerns.
  • 2000 - The first year recording sales actually declined -- record industry blames online music
                swapping as the cause and tried to advance digital copy protection schemes.
  • 2000 - Consumer DVD recorders were introduced at the Comdex Consumer Electronics
                show in Las Vegas priced at $1000, but by the 2001 show came down to around $500;
                these video recorders can hold up to 4.7 gigabytes of video and multimedia content
  • 2000 - Digital electronic books (E-Books) become a small part of the publishing industry, and
                several competing companies attempt to introduce the standards for them.
  • 2000 - March 10 -- the so-called "Internet Bubble" burst leading to a recession/shakeout
                of the inflated technology industry, as reality started to replace "irrational exuberance."
  • 2001 - Napster is forced to "filter out" content due to RIAA lawsuit; hints at fees to come
                other free peer-to-peer software including Gnutella are developed to take Napster's place
  • 2001 - Intel announces a breakthrough in the speed of computer processing chips that will make
                computers several THOUSAND times faster; first systems expected to be sold in 2007
  • 2001 - DVD video disk players outsell VHS video cassette recorder/players for the first time.
  • 2001 - Music DVD's are introduced which can contain 7 - 10 times the amount of music, or
                multimedia content to augment the usual sound recordings.
  • 2001 - The TV screen gets more junked up by "crawls" -- banners at the bottom of the screen,
                and other distracting divisions of the screen in imitation of computer desktops.
  • 2001 - Reminiscent of VHS/Betamax, an alternate standard for consumer DVD writable disks
               is introduced to thwart piracy called DVD+RW (as opposed to original DVD-RW);
               Microsoft is among the chief proponents of DVD+RW; Apple remains with DVD-RW
  • 2001 - October 23 - Apple Computer introduces the iPod portable music player for playing
                mp3 files, and it is a big hit, helping re-establish Apple's innovative reputation and
                improve their bottom line.
  • 2002 - The F.C.C. (U.S. Federal Communications Commision) requires all new U.S.
               television TV sets to include digital receivers in order to help the transition to digital
               transmission by February 17, 2009.
  • 2002 - October 10 - The F.C.C. approves a digital radio broadcast standard developed by
               iBiquity Digital Corp., a company backed by broadcasters including ABC and Viacom.
  • 2003 - Apple Computer introduces a downloadable music service via its iTunes music application,
               which proved that people would pay 99-cents-per-tune to download music legally in the
               wake of peer-to-peer free (but illegal) file swapping
  • 2005 - Retailers Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy and Circuit City announce they will stop selling
               VHS Video Cassette tapes since DVD's are now the medium of choice for most consumers
  • 2005 - December 20 -- the U.S. Congress agreed that Standard NTSC analog TV broadcasts will
                cease in favor of all digital TV transmission nation-wide on February 17, 2009
  • 2006 - January 27 - Western Union stopped delivering telegrams as of this date --
                ending a service in the United States that it began in 1851; Their primary
                business is still money transfers.
  • 2006 - February 22 - Apple Computer's online music store integrated into its iTunes software
                and iPod hardware, sold it's one-billionth song on this date, proving that digital music
                can be accepted by the public when distributed across a network in a virtual form, as
                opposed to inscribed only in discrete tangible media.

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